BY LENNIE BENNETT
Times Art Critic
Clothes that make a statement are nothing new. From Egyptian Queen Nefertiti's sleek headdress to Lady Gaga's crazy excess, women through the centuries have communicated much about themselves and their time without saying a word.
Artists began using clothes in the early 20th century in their work as conceptual metaphors. Salvador Dalí, for example, famously attached shot glasses to a dinner jacket.
There is something fun and fresh about art in a show at Florida Craftsmen Gallery, "Fabricated." The assumption would be that the title refers to putting things together, fabricating an item of clothing. But no, it takes as inspiration the broader definition (I checked Merriam-Webster) with the show's subtitle, "to invent or concoct with intent to deceive."
Sounds kind of sinister.
The deceit is pretty mild so you won't be unsettled by any of the art you see. You'll probably be, in some cases, delighted and amused.
Giannina Coppiano Dwin has the most intriguing take on making a piece of clothing as a work of art. On a black platform, she has created a lacy little slip from sugar. Using tiny brushes and picks, she manipulates Dixie Crystals for their glittery sheen and nudges the grains around in an amazing fool-the-eye technique. The sugar isn't affixed to the surface in any way and though there are signs telling you hands off, a smudge at the hemline attests to a viewer's inability to resist touching it. I understand the urge.
Besides being clever, it's a thoughtful look at how disposable clothing has become in our minds: A perfectly good handbag will moulder in a closet because it's soooo last season.
Denise Moody's clothes are also illusions. Still, they have more staying power. The glam gowns look red-carpet ready, displayed chicly on mannequin forms, until you take a close look. Internal Plumbing is a stunner that gets its glow from its material: hundreds of copper scouring pads shredded and woven together. It becomes more than an interesting stunt when you peer into the bodice and see that its lovely neckline is held up by a porcelain sink sunk into it.
We're reminded of stories about the thin and famous starving themselves. So, conveniently, Moody has included a drain in the sink that presumably would help eliminate our intake quickly before settling around our hips.
Another cool number has a bustier and tight skirt flared at the bottom with ruffles. It looks constrictive. It's supposed to. It's made from divorce decree papers and the corset is laced with typewriter tape instead of ribbon. The ruffles are shredded paperwork.
There is more such art in "Fabricated," more artists and more connections to make between the material and the mental. Not all of the works are clothes-as-metaphor but none of them is window dressing.
Lennie Bennett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8293.